Pavilion of women
Set in 1938 China, an American priest increases his own peril as he is drawn into a forbidden liaison with a beautiful aristocrat and soon they are both caught in a gathering storm that will not only threaten their love, but also their lives. Enter an exotic world that is on the brink of revolution and on the brink of social change.
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The beginning of the book was very promising. It is about an elegant Chinese woman educated in the old traditional way. Since she was young, she was taught that women are no more than the ones responsible for making the family grow, thus they must play their roles as the perfect housewives. Madame Wu, the main character, when reaching the 40th year of her life, feels that her role as a "baby generator" is over. However, she still has one thing in her mind: considering that her husband is still young and perfectly able to make more children, she decides to find him a suitable concubine. It's war time and with all the modernities taking place of ancient habits, the decision is imediately considered dreadful. In any other family, it would be unacceptable. Alas, Madame Wu is the supreme wisdom of the house and her words are the decisive ones.
At first, I thought that the story had all the requirements to be great. The main character is a strong women, full of attitude. Even if she's not the head of the house, the Wu family's perfect harmony was due to her decisions. And no one dares to disobey her. All the power is in her hands and, at the same time that she tries to cut her flesh relations with her husband, she keeps the order in the house in such a way that she always have everything under control, including the family members' happiness. Until the day she met a preacherman with whom she becomes quite interested. That's when the story starts to decay. Not because Madame Wu starts to contradict herself. On the very opposite, she keeps the same opinions from the beginning until the end of the book. What changed was the way she got to those conclusions. And that's exactly what didn't please me. I spent more than half of the book trying to understand why the heck did she stop to think in her charming selfish way. I even dare to say that her behavior changes happened from one page to the next one.
This is the kind of book that I read more because I was curious to know how it was going to end rather than because it was actually good. The conflicts are far from exciting, limiting themselves to regular family disagreements. Reading this book was like walking through a regular plain road: you only walk through it to get to the end. It is great when you think of cultural elements and chinese habits. But I've read better books.
Review: Pavilion of Women: [A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters]User Review - Goodreads
Read for my book club. This takes place in China in the mid 1930's, a time I know very little about. I now know more and wish to read more about this era. Read full review